It’s late in January to be making a 2013 list, but I want to recognize the art which resonated with me in the past year.
I recently started a book club, because I realized that I get more out of a book if I can talk about it with someone. In a similar spirit, I want to list the art I loved (and can remember) from the past year. Perhaps if I list it, and explain why, I’ll wring a little more enjoyment out of the discarded rinds. I also list them to encourage anyone reading this to explore these artists. They made my year special, and most of these pieces of art did not expire last year.
Lastly, reminding myself of all the wonderful art which I took in last year will, I hope, inspire me to make more of my own in the year to come.
Art Which Kicked Ass In 2013 – In Philadelphia and Beyond
Listed in no particular order. If you’re looking for something special to check out in 2014, look below.
- Broodhollow – a web comic by Kris Straub. A cheerfully-illustrated gothic web comic. I love the visual style and the world Straub’s creating. There’s also something resonant and cohesive to the madness depicted here, which I think springs from the fact that it’s a very personal story for the author.
- Alex Cohen – painter. I have many friends who are artists, and I look for ways to support them. I’ve always wanted to buy one of Cohen’s paintings, and this year I finally did.
- The Berserker Residents – The Talk Back, The Jersey Devil. Maybe the funniest theater group in Philly. Saw two of their shows and got to know the three guys a bit as people this year. I am envious of their productivity and talent.
- Pig Iron APT class – class shows. It is hard to describe the contact high one gets from hanging out with 16 talented artists who have all just doubled down on making theater a central part of their lives. The class shows I saw were among the best theater I’ve seen in Philly, period, and it makes me very excited to see what these actors and artists create going forward.
- The Philly Fringe Festival. Remains my favorite time of the year in Philly.
Books and the Written Word
- George Saunders – Tenth of December. I saw him speak at the Free Library. As if he wasn’t already a once-in-a-lifetime writer, he’s also a very engaging speaker and reader. I think I’ll look back and think, “Oh yeah, I remember when George Saunders was getting big” the way we talk about watching prime LeBron James or Rafael Nadal.
- Annie Dillard – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I’ve never read a book like this before. It’s not a novel, it’s not a memoir, it’s something else. This book made me want to take a walk in the woods, to live by a creek for a year, and to slow down and see the world with eyes as unfiltered as I can make them. I’ve never read a book before that calmed my mind while I read it.
- Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian. The opposite of calming. The Judge. Oh my fucking lord. The Judge.
- NaNoWriMo. This experience warrants its own blog post.
Movies and Television
- Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” The best movie I saw all year. The actors looked like they were having a blast making the movie, and yet that didn’t detract from the Shakespeare. I remember this film giving me a burning desire to get a bunch of talented friends together in a house, stock it with alcohol and camera equipment, and just make something.
- StripSearch - from Penny-Arcade. I don’t watch TV and I loathe reality TV. But I’ve never obsessively watched a television show like I watched this. Watching this show taught me several things. It taught me the seductive power of watching a show with someone else. While it was on, I was pestering my friends, asking them to watch it so we could talk about it together. It also inspired me to work harder on my writing. Which is a pretty impressive feat from a purportedly piece of visual entertainment. It also stoked my persistent desire to collaborate with a visual artist on something. Maybe some day…
- Typhoon – White Lighter. The most personally meaningful album to me since college. I’ve also never had the experience of recommending music to friends and see that music take deep root. Typically the recommendations flow the other way. Typhoon came to Philly several years ago and played at the North Star Bar. In October they returned and played Johnny Brenda’s. In March they will play Union Transfer. I knew about them years ago. Mom, Dad, I’m finally a real hipster!
- Bosley - live show at Connie’s Ric Rac. If Bosley isn’t huge within a year, there’s been a gross miscarriage of popular taste. Another band which I was able to introduce a friend to, and have that friend be so taken that he bought a CD at the show and later declared that CD to be the soundtrack to his life for the subsequent month.
- Sigur Ros – live concert at the Mann Center. Simply beautiful.
- Live music in New Orleans. Went to NOLA for the second time in my life. Remains a unique experience.
- DJ SnKpaK - best dance party. A friend organized a Sunday night dance party at Silk City, and this DJ spun. I haven’t managed to see her since, but the strength of that one night got me to look her name up and keep her in mind. Sometimes a DJ just hits the right spot for one’s dancing style, and that night did it.
- Dominion, 7 Wonders, Great Dalmuti. I love board and card games and these games brought me a lot of joy this year. Great Dalmuti, in particular, is the best card game I’ve ever discovered for casual time with friends. It’s strategic enough to be interesting, but casual enough that it won’t turn off people who “don’t play games.” You can also play for 20 minutes or 60, add or subtract players, it all works.
- Minecraft. I never thought a video game could make planting trees, growing wheat, and building stairs so exciting.
- Portal 2. Do you have a friend in another city? Play Portal 2 with them. It’s the most enjoyable, friendship-reinforcing experience I can think of when living 1,000 miles apart. That’s what I did.
Writing this felt like flipping back through old photos. It was a valuable exercise for me, and I’d encourage you to try it. And if you check out any of the above and like it, let me know.